Drugs do not discriminate. They don’t care about your family’s ethnicity, neighborhood, or income level; drugs can and will show up in any home. They will wreak the same havoc and inflict the same pain in rich families as in poor families. This especially holds true for teen drug use which may start for many different reasons but ultimately has the same final devastating outcome if not addressed.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2013, there was a marked increase in marijuana use and the abuse of prescription medication among high school-aged American youths.
As parents, it’s painful to suspect that your teen is engaging in harmful adult-like behaviors that can have life-long consequences. Whether they are 13 or 19, you will always see that rosy-cheeked little girl who wanted to be a Disney Princess or that rambunctious son who liked to capture bugs. This desire to prolong innocence is what causes many parents to excuse away suspicious behaviors as “typical” or the norm.
Over the years, I’ve watched many parents chose denial as their way of coping with teen drug use and addiction. I know that innate desire to see the good in your child can be so strong that any deviating thoughts feel utterly foreign and unimaginable. Your teen’s drug use can ignite a sense of betrayal; both in the sense that your child has betrayed your trust and that you have somehow betrayed your child with your suspicions.
Parents often assume fault and become immobilized by overwhelming feelings of guilt. That’s why denial is such a common response since the fear of discovering the truth seems far more painful and scary than the fear of not taking any action. It takes courage to step into that fear and be proactive. Keep in mind-it is easier to forgive yourself for being suspicious than it is to forgive yourself for being too late.
A good place to start is simply by observing your teen. The following are behavioral signs and indicators that your child may be using drugs or have an addiction to drugs. Keep in mind that moodiness and unpredictability are not unusual behaviors for a teen. You are looking for the presence of three or more signs and behaviors that are “out of the norm” for your child.
- Teen appears withdrawn, depressed, tired, careless, and unconcerned about grooming or their appearance
- Physical Signs include: red-rimmed eyes, dry mouth, runny nose but no other symptoms of a cold, hacking cough, puffy face, develop/increase in acne, changes in appearance and health of skin, teeth discoloration, increase in dental problems, discoloration of fingertips, complains of not feeling well but can’t give specifics, minimizes condition or refuses to see the doctor
- Has become increasingly hostile, uncooperative, confrontational
- No longer adheres to rules pertaining to curfew, checking in
- Relationship with family members has deteriorated
- Teen has changed friends, you don’t know teen’s new friends, teen doesn’t talk much about their new friends
- Drop in grades, decline in motivation at school, attendance has become irregular
- A loss of interest in hobbies, sports or other favorite activities
- Teen has a difficult time concentrating; changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Items around the household go missing, money goes missing, teen constantly asking for money or has an increased need for money
- Uses of perfume, cologne, deodorizers, scented sprays, candles, mouthwash, and gum to cover up odors
- Presence of rolling papers, bongs, homemade pipes made from soda cans or plastic bottles, medicine bottles, eye drops or butane lighters
This list is not exclusive and the presence of one sign does not mean that your teen is using drugs. If several of these behaviors apply to your teen you should voice your suspicions openly when you believe your teen is sober and seek advice by attending an educational workshop, support group, or counseling session with a professional. Don’t waste time blaming yourself or worrying about how this will affect the future. The most important thing is to take action; the sooner you do, the sooner you can start to help and heal.
Signs and Symptoms of Drug Use: http://www.phoenixhouse.org/prevention/signs-and-symptoms-of-substance-abuse/